Some of the best ideas are generated simply when colleagues get together for a chat. That’s how The Wildlife Society’s webinar series was launched in May 2021.
Past TWS president Gary Potts and then-president Carol Chambers were discussing ways to keep members informed and involved, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It felt really important to connect during COVID when we couldn’t meet in person,” Chambers said.
In talks with TWS staff members and a presentation to Council, the idea of a webinar series emerged. Maybe the best way to create webinars on a diversity of topics was to turn them over to working groups. Since they launched last May, webinars have focused on topics ranging from PFAS contamination to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to invasive species.
“Not just the members, but we—all of our program areas—are The Wildlife Society,” Potts said. “Many people don’t understand the breadth of all the Society does. This is expanding the opportunities The Wildlife Society presents to its members.”
Webinars, offered every month and each running for about an hour, offer free opportunities for members of the public—not just TWS members—to learn and participate. “The live interactions where you can ask questions just really adds to the dissemination of information quickly,” Potts said.
Potts recalls even the most specialized, smaller working groups, like the Wildlife Toxicology Working Group, had some of the most attended webinars. “I was struck by the interest and the breadth of membership attending these webinars,” he said.
Other webinars, like the one focused on DEI, were not only educational but solicited information from attendees that could help inform program areas within TWS. Participants were surveyed about what they knew about DEI and what TWS could do to improve outreach and diversity. About 120 people participated.
Others employed a “choose your own adventure,” using a poll to ask the audience what they wanted to learn about. “That was interactive and clever,” Chambers said.
The Wildlife Society is continuing the webinar series this year and is looking for submissions for upcoming topics, especially from working groups that haven’t yet participated. They also hope to reach more wildlife biologists that may eventually want to become TWS members.
“I think they can help build knowledge in our profession, maybe help increase membership in The Wildlife Society, and hopefully increase diversity in The Wildlife Society,” Chambers said.
This is in addition to other ways TWS is engaging members. “This is one of the plethora of member benefits people often take for granted,” Potts said.
|Dana Kobilinsky is associate editor at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at email@example.com with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.|
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